Heyyyy freelancers! Welcome to another exciting interview session!
We had the privilege of speaking with Uche Osita James; An African Freelancer! Enjoy the interview!
Uche Osita James is a Nigerian. and a final year law student at the University of Nigeria. He was born in the year 1996, in Enugu, Nigeria and he is the sixth child, out of eight. He has always had a nudging to express himself, to liberate his feelings; both confusing and mixed through some medium. He found writing. Writing enabled him to explore places he didn’t know existed in his mind.
- How long have you been writing?
To be honest, I really don’t know or don’t remember. But let us just say that I remember writing a short story collection, which I never published, in my primary 3. One of them tried a different approach to the cliché folktale, one the ‘wise tortoise’ often revolved around. I recall writing in defiance ‘Why the tortoise has a shell’ as distinct from the popular ‘why the tortoise has a broken shell’ that was over flogged at the time. Now I think of it, I think it is very funny.
- How long have you been freelancing?
I have been doing freelance writing for 4 years.
- In the course of your freelancing, what are some of the challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?
At first, the challenge was getting people to believe that I could write first, before, whether I could deliver came into question. I spent a long time trying to prove it to people. But after some time, I just simply relaxed; worked for several blogs, participate in the editorial teams of different magazines and literary journals. I even started sending unsolicited submissions to online blogs and news and entertainment platforms. The goal was to create an online presence and to gain professional experience.
- What are your favourite tools for working?
Blogger, Sticky notes, GoogleKeep, Microsoft Word and One Note.
- Tell us about your works.
This is going to be a tough one. I have written several articles, but mostly I write short stories. The first one I remember was successful was ‘The Despicable’ where I tried to explore campus hostel life and the incessancy of quick hands, as well as its teeming consequences. It was published in the Campus Digest (The official publication of the UNN Student’s Union Government). The next one was ‘Shades of Red’, where I tried writing in the second person singular for the first time and told the story from a female character. This was published in the 4th Nwokike Literary Journal, titled; Pieces of Gods.
Then there was ‘Everything happens for good’, published in Kalahari Review, ‘The phoenix’ published in African Writer and then ‘The man she married’ published in Mu-Africa. I also worked on a campus slang compilation, which I titled ‘Campus Speak’. The goal at the time was to attempt to make a comprehensive – though not exhaustive – compilation of the colloquial language on campus to give freshers a guide on what to expect, embody the UNN campus socio-cultural values and well, to give many a good laugh.
- How do you motivate yourself to write?
I don’t know. I read – mostly. There is always a fear that one may not be good enough, and with the prize validation trends that are currently ongoing, one is not too encouraged with each rejection that seems to come endlessly. What I do sometimes is play good music. I played Asa’s Awe when I was writing ‘A tale of two’. I also remember playing Rihana’s ‘Fool in love’ while I was writing ‘Shades of red’. On good days, the inspiration comes, and on other days, I set up a writing plan and give myself a target, then I write. Sometimes I get bored, and then go online and read up on what I am writing on. Other times, I just read and reschedule the writing target.
- What is something you’ve learnt about freelancing that others can learn also from?
People like delivery a lot. No one really cares how much writing experience you have on your resume, what they are ultimately interested in is whether you can deliver and on time. Now don’t get me wrong, having a good resume is good, since it removes the stress of advertising; if you are notorious enough people will come to you. But what is even better is having a work attitude. This is an understanding that you are being called upon to act in a professional capacity to satisfy your customers. This means in many respects, paying attention to the various unique needs of your customers, their preferences and their time specifications. Ultimately every freelancer has to respect deadlines; it is the single thing that speaks professionally in all areas of practice, in life. Personally, I have learnt that sometimes the customer often has an idea of what he /she wants but not the whole idea. It then becomes the job of the freelancer to show the customer through creative thinking and tact – in other not to give the appearance of disrespect – what he may have intended he wanted but couldn’t express.
- Tell us about one of your works you consider as your favourite.
That would be ‘Everything happens for good’. I was struggling to write at the time and the story started coming to me. At first, it was in my dream, and then in class. When I started writing it, I really didn’t know where the story was going, nor that it would be published by Kalahari Review. I tried to make the work indigenous – something that is trending as provincial writing – by including Igbo phrases, something I felt strongly should have put off the white editor. In the work, I tried to depict the ordinary life of a struggling writer in the 21st century. I also included themes like betrayal, anxiety, love and sacrifice. While delving into the lives of a typical Nigerian family, from whence the writer came, the preference for the writer’s brother and the disbelief of the writer’s parent’s that his ‘preferred brother’ was the one responsible for his girlfriend’s pregnancy.
- What is your best writing tip?
Read, read and read some more. Then write.
- What is your best freelancing tip?
Never look a client in the eye, just kidding. Always write, even when you don’t have clients. Something as insignificant as posting daily on your blog may well be helping an unknown client decide that he wants you for the job.
- What advice would you give to a budding freelancer or writer?
Never stop believing. You can doubt that you are good enough at some point; it is okay to feel that way. The journey to acquiring an excellent writing resume, to improve people’s confidence in you, is never an easy one. However, no matter how many rejections you get on this journey, always remember; it is not the fact that one is published on national and international platforms that makes one a writer, it is the subconscious tendency to write about our experiences, dreams and aspirations as a way of expression, regardless of our consequences, this is what makes us writers.